Barron: Kim Coleman Wants To Bring The Swamp To UT-04

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By Morgan Barron, Opinion Writer

 

Last July, Congressman Ben McAdams (D-Salt Lake City) had the highest approval rating of any member of Utah’s congressional delegation. Analysts credited this high rating to the bipartisan image McAdams has cultivated while serving in D.C. While McAdams “enjoys approval from both sides of the aisle,” he does not have the approval of state Rep. Kim Coleman.

Coleman claims McAdams is “out of sync” with the voters of UT-04, where she herself lives and holds a state House seat. Coleman has announced that she is challenging McAdams for his seat, asserting that she could better represent residents of the fourth district. Her previous legislative record and staunch support of President Donald Trump, however, quickly undermines that claim.

Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that is higher than the national average, so when Coleman proposed legislation to ensure sexual assault is “[treated] like a felony crime,” it seemed like she was advocating on behalf of the survivors. However, over 50 victim advocate groups spoke out against her bill, which would have allowed universities to report sexual assaults to the police despite survivors’ objections. Experts testified that this bill was a wrong approach that would likely suppress reports of sexual violence. Coleman ignored these concerns, continuing to run a flawed bill instead of working with the survivors and advocates she intended to help. Instead of listening and writing nuanced legislation, Coleman was more interested in the passage of her bill than the wellbeing of those who would be impacted.

Coleman has often supported bills that would appear to help vulnerable Utahns, however, those same bills often pose harm to the community. Coleman has supported legislation that would allow 18-year-olds to obtain concealed carry permits, arguing this measure would protect students. Speaking on the house floor, Coleman reminded other lawmakers that 20% to 25% of women are victims of attempted rape or rape during their undergraduate program: “My 19-year-old daughter looks at her five roommates and wonders statistically which one of them it is going to be.” Coleman believes that by allowing 18-year-olds to obtain conceal carry permits, they will have a higher likelihood of being able to stop rape. While these floor comments were moving, in the state of Utah, the increased access to firearms has propelled the state’s staggering rates of death by suicide — especially among young people. 

Half of all Utah suicides are firearm-related with most victims using guns that belonged to themselves, their family or their friends. As suicide is the leading cause of death for Utahns between the ages of 10 and 17  — and the second leading cause of death for Utahns between the age of 18 and 24 — increasing the number of guns available to a statistically vulnerable population would put children and young adults at risk.

Obviously, suicide profoundly impacts every community in Utah. Herriman High School, located in the fourth congressional district, lost eight students to suicide in a single year. By supporting legislation that champions guns as the lone alternative to campus rape, what Coleman presents as reasonable would have put communities at risk.

In 2018, 52.75% of Utahns voted in favor of Proposition 2, the legalization of medical marijuana in the state, and 53.32% of Utahns voted in favor of Proposition 3, which extended healthcare to 150,000 uninsured people in the state.

But instead of honoring the will of the voters, Coleman and the vast majority of her Republican colleagues voted for repeal-and-replace bills for both propositions — a pattern she would likely continue in Congress, considering that she is far more conservative than her district. Coleman cannot claim to offer better representation when she allows her personal opinions, instead of the opinions of her constituents, to dictate her actions in the state legislature.

President Trump is immensely unpopular in the fourth district. Less than 40% of district four voters voted for him in 2016 and the voters who currently support his impeachment outnumber those who do not. McAdams voted for articles of impeachment, honoring both his congressional duty of oversight and the interests of his constituents. Despite constituent support for impeachment, Coleman told reporters McAdams chose to represent “the swamp” instead of his district. 

A Trump supporter herself, it appears that Coleman, not McAdams, has the partisan agenda. There is no doubt that if she held this seat this past December, Coleman would have voted against accountability, choosing the Republican Party over the will of her voters.

When recently asked about Trump’s controversial decision to order the U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, Coleman applauded his actions. “I’m glad that we have a president who does not apologize for protecting Americans’ lives.” 

But her sentiment rings hollow as fear of war and retaliation continue to grow nationwide. Teenagers and young adults are nervous about the possibility of war with Iran, World War III memes trended on Twitter and the Selective Service site crashed after a huge spike in draft-related internet searches. Even many young Utahns protested war with Iran outside the Federal Building downtown despite the January chill. 

In a powerful opinion piece for the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah veteran Kael Weston attacked claims of increased global safety directly. “Based on my prior career representing the U.S. government in war zones across this combustible region, I believe the world today is less safe for all Americans.” Again, Coleman shows that her personal support for the president would interfere with her ability to address the concerns of her constituents.

Just this month, Coleman posted a photo of McAdams and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democratic representative from Minnesota, to her Facebook page. Part of Coleman’s caption read, “This picture is a reminder that a strong Republican district electing a Democrat… is sort of like the story of the man who believed the snake who promised not to bite him.”

Coleman’s selection of this particular picture is interesting, considering that McAdams and the so-called “Squadwhich Omar is a part of are not ideologically close. While McAdams and the Squad have voted similarly in the House on legislation limiting partisan gerrymandering and discrimination, another squad member threatened to put McAdams on a primary campaign hit-list when he voted for a conservative amendment to gun legislation.

Coleman’s post appears to have been motivated by bigotry. UT-04 is a majority white district, so perhaps she assumed that she could stir up fear or anger in voters by associating McAdams with a Muslim woman of color. This play is not dissimilar to Trump’s caravan hysteria prior to the 2018 midterms, warning voters to vote Republican as Democrats would allow the “invasion.” The fourth congressional district rejected this racist and xenophobic messaging at the polls two years ago by voting McAdams into office, and I have no doubt we’ll do it again.

During her candidacy announcement, Coleman told a gathering of supporters and reporters that she would best represent UT-04 because she doesn’t just live in the district, she is from the district. I myself have lived in Utah’s fourth congressional district since I was three, but that qualification alone would not make me an ideal representative for a district that stretches from Salt Lake City down to Spring City. Representing a geographically diverse district well requires that officials do not vote according to their opinions but that they listen and respond to the needs and desires of their constituents. During her time as a state legislator, Coleman’s words and actions have shown that she is decidedly unfit to represent congressional district four. If anyone is “out of sync,” it is her.

 

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